The United States women’s national team’s player association has joined up with the player associations of the NFL and the WNBA in order to form a business that manages their licensing and brand management. The combined group has formed REP Worldwide, which is a “player representation business that offers licensing and brand management services to athlete-driven sports properties” according to their press release. Basically, the USWNT has joined up with NFL Players Inc. to deal with “group player licensing” and athlete marketing.
Licensing was clearly an issue between the USWNT and US Soccer as it came up during their most recent collective bargaining agreement negotiations. Controlling likeness rights is a part of the new CBA, as well as sponsorship “in categories where US Soccer does not have a sponsor.”
“The players of the USWNT are proud to partner with the NFLPA and WNBPA on this new venture, which ultimately is about athletes supporting athletes to help each of us, and our teams, maximize their value and potential,” said Meghan Klingenberg via press release.
The partnership between the WNT and the NFL and WNBA player associations, particularly the NFL, is interesting in terms of the USWNT seeming to really grab the reins of their position with respect to their federation. There’s been a growing awareness since about the 2011 Women’s World Cup that the WNT has increasing leverage with US Soccer to bargain for better working conditions and to capitalize on their growing fame and success in the United States. In general, it’s good to see player unions take control of the ways in which players’ images are monetized. And in theory, money from this venture will feed back into the USWNT PA, strengthening their ability to bargain with US Soccer in the future.
It would be very nice to see non-NT NWSL players formalize their association into an actual union and get in on this action; as nice as it is to see WNT players maximize their marketability, it’s even more critical for NWSL players to be able to monetize their images and get guidance on things like brand management. That’s not just good for individual players, it’s good for the league, which is currently fighting for every scrap of exposure and airtime it gets. A more stable NWSL benefits the USWNT, and a more profitable USWNT helps add to the argument for a more stable NWSL, and so we are all connected in the great circle of life.